Boise State men’s basketball faces ‘cream of the crop’; Vandal men, women in WAC final

Though Las Vegas is a neutral floor for the Boise State men’s basketball team in its 9:30 p.m. MT Friday semifinal at the Mountain West Tournament, it will seem like a road game.

New Mexico (25-6) brings thousands of fans to the tournament each year, and for good reason — the Lobos have won two straight conference tournaments, and three of the last four.

“They’ve got a lot of guys that know how to win games, a lot of guys that have been together for a long time,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “You talk about having a lot of weapons, that’s New Mexico. They can go inside, outside. They’ve got heady guards, great shooters. One of the best front lines in the country.
“You’re facing a unique animal, not a lot of teams in the country have what they have.”

Senior Jeff Elorriaga said the Broncos are facing “the cream of the crop” in New Mexico, ranked No. 20 in the AP poll. Boise State is 1-5 all-time against the Lobos, but that one win came in the teams’ last meeting, a 71-70 victory in Boise on Feb. 12.

“A couple of us have played them three seasons, four seasons already,” Boise State junior Anthony Drmic said. “We know what to expect. We’ve just got to come out focused. I think we’ve got a good shot at it.”

The Broncos trailed by seven at the half in that win, and by 10 with less than 15 minutes to play. They held forward Cameron Bairstow and center Alex Kirk to a combined 10 points in that second half after they scored 23 points in the first half. The Lobos made 11-of-17 free throws in the second half, of which the Broncos took advantage.

New Mexico shot better than 50 percent in both meetings between the teams this year, but Boise State has played some of its best defense of the season in its two Mountain West Tournament games. San Jose State and Nevada shot a combined 30.1 percent in the Broncos’ 31- and 13-point wins.

“It’s going to take a heck of an effort, and our guys understand that … we’re going to have to play one of our best defensive games we’ve played all year,” Rice said.

Tale of the tape: Using conference-only stats, here’s a look at how the Broncos and Lobos have fared (the two MW tourney games for the Broncos and one for the Lobos are not figured in).
Scoring: New Mexico, 72.4 ppg (first); Boise State 71.9 ppg (second)
Scoring defense: New Mexico 63.2 ppg (third); Boise State 70.6 ppg (ninth)
Field goal percentage: New Mexico 47.0 (first); Boise State 44.0 (third)
Field goal percentage D: New Mexico 38.4 (first); Boise State 47.4 (11th)
Rebounding margin: New Mexico +4.0 rpg (second); Boise State +5.7 rpg (first)
3-pointers per game: New Mexico 6.3 (seventh); Boise State 7.8 (second)

LIKELY STARTERS (w/season stats)
Boise State
G Mikey Thompson, so., 6-3, 167: 8.7 ppg, 2.5 apg
G/F Anthony Drmic, jr., 6-6, 192: 16.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg
G Derrick Marks, jr., 6-3, 204: 14.7 ppg, 1.5 spg
G Jeff Elorriaga, sr., 6-2, 201: 7.7 ppg, 44.7 3-point percentage
F Ryan Watkins, sr., 6-9, 242: 12.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg

New Mexico
F Cameron Bairstow, sr., 6-9, 250: 20.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg
C Alex Kirk, jr., 7-0, 245: 13.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg
G Kendall Williams, sr., 6-4, 180: 16.4 ppg, 5.1 apg
G Hugh Greenwood, jr., 6-3, 205: 5.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg
G Deshawn Delaney, jr., 6-5, 190: 4.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg

Elsewhere in Las Vegas, the Idaho women’s basketball team advanced to the WAC championship with a 75-65 win over New Mexico State on Friday. Idaho (24-8), the defending conference champs, will play for a second straight title at 2 p.m. MT Saturday.

Trailing by as much as 13 in the first half, the Vandals forced the Aggies to miss their first 18 field goals of the second half, taking a nine-point lead during that stretch. Stacey Barr, the WAC player of the year, had a career-high 35 points and added 10 rebounds for the Vandals.

The Idaho men advanced to their first conference championship game in 21 years with a 74-69 win over top-seeded Utah Valley. Stephen Madison, who had 27 points Thursday, had 25 points Friday in the win. Idaho improved to 16-17, and Utah Valley fell to 20-11. Idaho will face New Mexico State at 8 p.m. MT Saturday in the championship. Both games, for the Idaho men and women, will be televised on ESPNU.

MOUNTAIN WEST
Men’s schedule (all times MT, seeds in parentheses)
Wednesday

Game 1: (8) Utah State 73, (9) Colorado State 69
Game 2: (7) Fresno State 61, (10) Air Force 59
Game 3: (6) Boise State 83, (11) San Jose State 52
Thursday (all games on CBS Sports Network)
Game 4: (1) San Diego State 73, (8) Utah State 39
Game 5: (4) UNLV 71, (5) Wyoming 67
Game 6: (2) New Mexico 93, (7) Fresno State 77
Game 7: (6) Boise State 75, (3) Nevada 62
Friday (all games on CBS Sports Network)
Game 8: (1) San Diego State 59, (4) UNLV 51
Game 9: (2) New Mexico 70, (6) Boise State 67
Saturday
Game 10 (championship): (1) San Diego State vs. (2) New Mexico, 4 p.m. (CBS)

FRIDAY’S MOUNTAIN WEST MEN’S RECAPS
San Diego State 59, UNLV 51: Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year Dwayne Polee had 18 points off the bench to lead the Aztecs (29-3), while MW Player of the Year Xavier Thames had 17. Deville Smith had 17 points to lead UNLV (20-13).
New Mexico 70, Boise State 67: Read my game story here.

THURSDAY’S MOUNTAIN WEST MEN’S RECAPS
San Diego State 73, Utah State 39: The top-seeded Aztecs hammered the eighth-seeded Aggies, setting a new record for biggest win in a Mountain West Tournament game. The previous record existed for about 16 hours — Boise State’s 31-point win over San Jose State late Wednesday mark broke the previous record of 27. Utah State shot 29.3 percent from the field (including 1-of-10 on 3s) and San Diego State shot 52.5 percent. Xavier Thames had 15 points and Josh Davis had 13 points for the Aztecs (28-3). Jarred Shaw had 14 points for the Aggies (18-14).
UNLV 71, Wyoming 67: The Runnin’ Rebels had their hands full in their home building, but won the matchup of the fourth and fifth seeds. Bryce Dejean-Jones had 22 points to lead UNLV (20-12), and Roscoe Smith pitched in 18 points and 13 rebounds. Josh Adams had 24 points and seven rebounds to lead the Cowboys (18-14).
New Mexico 93, Fresno State 77: In a game that saw 66 free-throw attempts, defending Mountain West champion New Mexico never trailed and led by as much as 19 to advance to the semifinals. The Lobos (25-6) got 21 points and 10 rebounds from Cameron Bairstow, plus 21 points from Alex Kirk and 17 from Kendall Williams. Fresno State (17-16) was led by Allen Huddleston’s 18 points off the bench.
Boise State 75, Nevada 62: Check out my game story here.

Women’s schedule (all times MT)
Monday

Game 1: (8) Utah State 69, (9) New Mexico 66
Game 2: (7) UNLV 78, (10) San Jose State 75
Game 3: (6) San Diego State 63, (11) Air Force 56
Tuesday
Game 4: (1) Colorado State 72, (8) Utah State (67)
Game 5: (5) Wyoming 61, (4) Boise State 56
Game 6: (2) Fresno State 80, (7) UNLV 65
Game 7: (3) Nevada 53, (6) San Diego State (48)
Friday (all games on Mtn. West Digital Network)
Game 8: (1) Colorado State 95, (5) Wyoming 92, 3OT
Game 9: (2) Fresno State 82, (3) Nevada 71
Saturday
Game 10 (championship): (1) Colorado State vs. (2) Fresno State, 8 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

FRIDAY’S MOUNTAIN WEST WOMEN’S RECAPS
Colorado State 95, Wyoming 92, 3 OT: The Colorado State women’s basketball team, seeded No. 1, outlasted Wyoming in the longest game in Mountain West Tournament history. Five Rams had at least 13 points, led by Gritt Ryder’s 23.
Fresno State 82, Nevada 71: Defending tournament champion Fresno State returned to the championship game with a strong effort in which the Bulldogs led by as much as 19 in the second half. Five Bulldogs (21-10) scored in double figures, led by Taylor Thompson’s 22 points.

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